Utah Jazz: Shooters need to hit an open shot

Published: Tuesday, April 21 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — Aw, shoot.

It was what Ronnie Brewer was thinking when Kobe Bryant gave him enough space to drop in a few more planets.

It was what the Jazz did, if f-u-l-l-y is tacked to Aw, in Sunday's Game 1 of their opening-round NBA playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

And it's what they had to be thinking when it was over, the Lakers having ridden Utah's 35.4 percent success rate from the field before the break — 64.6 percent failure rate? — to a 22-point halftime lead and an eventual 113-100 victory.

No wonder Jazz coach Jerry Sloan couldn't have been blamed had he wanted to, aw, shoot all the inquisitors focusing mostly on shot selection at Monday's practice in advance of tonight's Game 2 at Staples Center.

Sloan, though, acknowledged his snipers must answer the call if the No. 8 seed Jazz are to have any chance of hanging with Bryant and the Western Conference's top-seeded Lakers.

"They've got to have confidence enough to be able to step up and make the shot," he said. "I think they have that (ability).

"It's just that sometimes when (defenders) drop off and expose you like that, that's something you've got to continue to work on. If you're gonna play in this league, you've got to be able to make open shots, usually."

The Jazz connected on just 17-of-48 in the first half, and wound up 34-for-87 — still just a 39.1 percent clip.

They made just one 3-pointer on seven tries before halftime, and ended up 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from behind the long-distance line.

It wasn't just the lengthy stuff, though, that infrequently fell.

"It's kind of contagious," said point guard Deron Williams, who knocked himself after going 4-for-14. "Once you start missing easy little layups, it seems like it's a snowball effect. And it just kept happening to us."

Not including the combined and mostly inside 17-for-29 shooting of power forwards Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap, Utah hit only 17-for-58 — or 29.3 percent.

"When we executed our offense, we got some decent shots — guys in and around the basket, things going to the basket, guys in their rhythm," said Sloan, who on Sunday credited the Lakers for exploiting his team's penchant for poor outside shooting.

"The biggest thing is standing out there alone," he added. "If our guys are playing in their rhythm, I feel pretty good about the shot when they shoot. If they get it, and hold it, and stand, I don't."

Some with the Jazz, in other words, spent way too much time pondering pros and cons.

That's just one theory as to why the aim of certain Utah shooters was so errant.

Another: nerves.

"It's Game 1, it's the playoffs," Brewer said. "You're thinking about a lot of stuff."

"It's a big stage. It's an exciting time," Boozer added. "It's the best time of the season, when everything's on the line. I'm sure it was a little bit of that too."

Mostly, though, it was a combination of poor execution and imperfect poise.

"I thought at times we took some tough shots," Boozer said, "but for the most part I thought we had shots that our guys have made all year.

"We just have to play with confidence."

Especially those who haven't always.

Take the 2-for-7 showing from starting shooting guard Brewer, who often found himself misfiring even as Bryant backed off and instead helped his bigs clog the paint.

All too often, uncertainty got the better of his stroke.

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